Earlier this week, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon came out in favor of marijuana legalization in New York. Well, she more than came out in favor—she made it a centerpiece of her platform and proceeded to ask supporters to make donations of $4.20 to her campaign, a nod to the number and holiday celebrated by jazz cigarette enthusiasts for decades.
The move put Governor Andrew Cuomo in a sticky situation—he’s previously come out against legalizing cannabis in the state but changed his tune slightly in January when he announced he would form a panel to advise him on the prospect of legalizing the drug. But now, with Nixon gaining support and the devil’s lettuce now legal for recreational use in Massachusetts and legislation on the way in New Jersey that could do the same, the governor is warming up to the idea.
In a press conference on Thursday on a completely unrelated matter (the subway), Cuomo responded to questions about legalizing the sticky icky in the Empire State.
“The situation has changed drastically with marijuana,” he said. “It’s no longer a question of legal or not legal. It’s legal in Massachusetts. It may be legal in New Jersey, which means for all intents and purposes, it’s going to be here anyway.”
“The majority of the legislature is, I would say, against legalizing it,” he continued. “I said it’s a new day; let’s look at the facts. I know people have opinions—and it’s hard to get people to change opinions—but opinions should be based on facts. So let’s talk to the experts, let’s put together the facts.”
The comments were as close as Cuomo’s come to throwing official support behind cannabis legalization to date. He continuously defected to the study that’s being produced by his panel on the issue—he invoked the phrase “facts” 15 times over the course of two responses to reporters’ questions on legalizing that loud.
When that study is published and those “facts” are all in place, Cuomo may be forced to throw his support behind legalization. Still, such legislation has a long uphill battle in Albany.
“We know for sure that the legislature now would not pass [cannabis legalization],” he said. “We’ve had that conversation. So it's a nonstarter now.”
But, given his comments—and the fact that more pot is consumed in New York than any other city in the world—it seems that it’s not a matter of if New Yorkers will be able to toke up legally, rather when.
“Cynthia Nixon's recent public support of legalizing cannabis for adult-use has moved the conversation to the forefront of the gubernatorial race, causing Cuomo to address the issue sooner than he may have liked or expected,” says Cristina Buccola, a lawyer who owns a boutique law firm focused on the cannabis industry. “His comments underscore that he's still not a fan of legalization, but he's a realist.”